About Us

Our Mission: Providing Ongoing Education and Prevention

Kids on the Block’s mission is to provide ongoing education and prevention through puppetry for children and the community at large. The core message in each program is to teach children acceptance of differences in themselves and in others.

The troupe uses life size puppets and performs 17 topics in the style of Bunraku puppetry. The puppeteers travel the state performing in schools, boys and girls clubs, and other community centers.  In 2021, 24,213 children in 45 counties viewed programs. The puppets bring children to a teachable moment by reflecting their hopes, fears, likes, and dislikes.

Other initiatives include owning and operating The Higgins Center for Nonprofits, free kids runs, a youth board for elementary aged children, and a monthly victim impact panel to combat driving under the influence.

Our History

Kids on the Block History

In 1977, special education teacher Barbara Aiello had a student, Anthony, with cerebral palsy who used a wheelchair. Anthony was bright, and Barbara felt that he was ready to be mainstreamed into a “regular” classroom. A few days later, Anthony told her he didn’t want to go back to that classroom because children ignored him, made fun of him and didn’t want to play with him.

While Anthony was academically prepared, teachers or children in the “regular” classroom weren’t prepared for Anthony. So, Barbara made a puppet with Anthony’s likeness, including his red hair and constructed a wheelchair out of garden hose and bicycle tires. Using the puppet, Barbara explained to his class why he looked different, talked differently and used a wheelchair. Kids on the Block was born the moment children began to raise their hands to ask the puppet character questions. When a hand was raised, a barrier came down. 

From there, Anthony’s puppet grew to a family of puppet characters and programs designed to help children understand and cope with sensitive issues.

Coming to Kentucky

Kentucky Kids on the Block was founded in 1985 by Jamie Gaddie Higgins and Alice Kummer. Jamie took her daughter, Heather, to a Spina Bifida Association Christmas party. Nashville Kids on the Block performed their “Accepting Differences” program. Heather, who has spina bifida, reacted in such a positive way, her mother reached out to her friend, Alice, about starting their own puppet troupe in Bowling Green.

The puppetry used by Kentucky Kids on the Block is based on a Japanese style of puppetry called Bunraku. Bunraku puppetry, using life sized puppets, is used to bring children to the teachable moment. Each year, Kentucky Kids on the Block presents 300 programs to approximately 30,000 children in 20 Kentucky counties. The programs blend humor with sensitivity to help children develop an attitude of understanding and acceptance toward others that will serve them the rest of their lives. Kids on the Block is housed in the Higgins Center for Nonprofits.

Our Team

Kids on the Block Staff

Ashley Reynolds

Executive
Director

Amanda Guerra

Director of Programs / Lead Puppeteer

Haley Abell

Puppeteer /
Higgins Center Marketing

Missi Carini

Grant Writer / Administrative Assistant

Regina Pedigo

Puppeteer /
Special Projects

Malia Hoffmann

Puppeteer

Board of Directors

  • Alan Cooper
    General Manager at WDNS/WLCT Radio
    Kentucky Kids on the Block Position: Treasurer
  • Lisa Duffin-Rexroat
    Associate Professor
    WKU College of Education and Behavioral Sciences
  • Sherri Emberton
    Accounting Controller
    Scotty’s Contracting and Stone
  • Kayla Fugate
    Staff Attorney at Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy
    Kentucky Kids on the Block Position: Past Chair
  • Adam Galloway
    Senior Vice President of Communication
    German American Bank
  • Laura Haley
    Advertising Account Executive
    WBKO Television
  • Michele Humphrey
    Branch Manager
    American Bank and Trust
  • Lauren Kummer
    High School Assistance Counselor
    Warren County Public Schools
  • Dotti Beth Lawrence
    Retired Realtor
  • Ashley Lillard
    Health Education Coordinator at Barren River District Health Department
    Kentucky Kids on the Block Position: Secretary
  • Max Marley
    Owner
    Success Principles
  • Tracey Pharris
    Vice President/Business Banking Relationship Manager at PNC Bank
    Current Kentucky Kids on the Block Position: Chair
  • Angela Reeves
    Franchise Owner of Wild Eggs
    VIP Bowling Green Editor
  • Ashley Reynolds
    Executive Director
    Kentucky Kids on the Block
  • Mary Vitale
    Owner
    New Millennium Real Estate, LLC
  • Mckinze Willard
    Marketing Director
    Hospice of Southern Kentucky
  • Barry Williams
    Owner
    Communication Systems
  • David Witty
    Realtor
    Coldwell Banker Legacy Real Estate Group
  • Shanda Yates
    Mortgage Loan Originator
    South Central Bank

Advisors

Shelly Compton
Partner at Carr, Riggs, and Ingram, CPAs

Johna Rodgers
Johna Rodgers Consulting, LLC

Heather Higgins-Jeffrey

Steve Sutton
President of Chase Bank

John Kelly
Kelly Family Foundation

Mary Vitale
Owner of New Millennium Real Estate, LLC

Alice Kummer
Kentucky Kids on the Block Co-founder

Julie Wedge
Wedge Family Foundation

Sandy Riley
Owner of Riley’s Bakery

Barry Williams
Owner of Communication Systems

County Representatives

Allen County:

Matt Pedigo:
BRADD (Barren River Area Development District) Community Project Development Specialist

Barren County:

Erin Hiles
Barren Inc

Jefferson County:

Julie Ann Rosing
Law Clerk at US District Court for Western District of Kentucky

Ashley Reynolds

Executive Director

“Passion is the difference between having a job or a career.” When Ashley Reynolds began her journey as the grant writer at Kids on the Block in 2013, she knew she had found her career. After being appointed Executive Director in 2014, she and the staff set a goal for a second troupe to be formed which would be primarily focused on child abuse prevention. That dream was realized when Kids on the Block received The Women’s Fund Impact Grant in 2019. Her favorite program is child abuse because she strongly believes the most immediate need facing our world is protecting children.

She loves being involved in the community and also serves as a Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce Ambassador, and teaches adult and kids yoga classes at the Warren County Public Library.

Ashley enjoys yoga, running, skiing, collecting antiques with her dad, going to concerts with her mom, and planning her next trip to the beach with her husband, sons, and two wild dogs.

Amanda Guerra

Director of Programs/Lead Puppeteer

I am a WKU graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Studies. So I thought Kids on the Block would be a good fit for me. I started working at Kids on the Block as a puppeteer in June 2011. In 2014 I became the Director of Programs and Lead Puppeteer.

I enjoy presenting programs at schools because through puppetry I am able to bring children to a teachable moment that they don’t forget. The programs that I feel most passionate about teaching is the Child Abuse Prevention programs. These programs not only teach children about child abuse but also teach children how to get out of abusive situations.

The programs that I have the most fun presenting are the Accepting Differences (Campers program), Problem Solving, and Divorce programs. (Who am I kidding, they are all fun!) When I am not working I enjoy outdoors activities such as gardening, hiking and kayaking with my husband, daughter and our dog.

Haley Abell

Puppeteer / Higgins Center Marketing

My name is Haley Abell and I’m a puppeteer and marketing coordinator with Kids on the Block.

I grew up in Bardstown, KY where I performed in theatre since I was ten. This took me to Western Kentucky University when I graduated high school to pursue both performance and fiction writing. While in BG, I found out about Kids on the Block and wanted very badly to work there for years, so I am thrilled to be a part of the team!

In my off time, I write fiction, make music, and talk about how much I like dragons. And Stephen is my absolute favorite puppet!

Missi Carini

Grant Writer / Administrative Assistant

I am a Towson State University graduate with a bachelor’s of Science in Art and a Master’s of Science in Education from Western Kentucky University. I have been an Art teacher for 37 years, 25 in Kentucky.

After my recent retirement, I was looking for a way to use my knowledge to still benefit children. Kids on the Block is a great opportunity. As a grant writer, I hope to help continue creating funding opportunities for this program.

When I’m not working I create my own art, visit my 4 boys and enjoy time with my husband. I also have 1 dog named Mumu who is a Shipoo.

Regina Pedigo

Puppeteer/Special Projects

I have lived in Bowling Green most of my life. I married my husband in 1996 and we had our daughter in 2000. I had always worked with kids and would play with puppets and change my voice for the different characters in the books I would read to them. Little did I know God was preparing me for something greater. I started working with Kids on the Block on March 1, 2007. My favorite KOB program is Child Abuse Prevention. The pain of being abused follows a child the rest of their life and if just one child learns they can say no or learns that it’s ok to tell, then it is worth all the time we put into it. When I’m not at work I am very involved with my church where I currently lead the music and choir. I love to hike, camp, cook and sing. I have 2 dogs, 1 cat and a ball python.

Malia Hoffmann

Puppeteer

Hi, my name is Malia! I have spent most of my childhood in Shelbyville, KY, but I call BG my home!

I have been involved in music and theater since I was in elementary school. This led me to go to WKU for music education and train in voice! In my elementary student teaching placement, I met Kids on the Block and immediately wanted to be a part of their amazing team.

I graduated from WKU in 2022 with my Bachelors in Music and joined the team soon after! At home, I have a goofy husband, the coolest daughter, and a Blue Heeler.

Carly Dunn

Grant Professional / Development Assistant

I started working at Kids on the Block as a Development Intern January of 2021. As I was finishing my Bachelors of Arts in Theatre, I fell in love with the puppets! I loved everything we were doing, especially our work in Child Abuse Prevention. Following my graduation from WKU, I was brought on as a Development Assistant and Grant Professional. It’s been an amazing adventure since! 

When I’m not helping with the puppets, you might find me singing, reading, or geeking out over the latest theatre news. I also enjoy trying out new adventures with my husband, Reggie, our dog and two cats.